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David Frisk Education. (2013) 'If Not Us, Who? William Rusher, 'National Review,' and the Conservative Movement.'

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Meyer 11, Goldwater 7, Frank Meyer 6, Priscilla Buckley 5, South Africa 4, Us 4, New York 4, San Francisco 4, James Burnham 3, Washington 3, Dr. Edwards 3, Ronald Reagan 3, Bill Buckley 3, Morris 2, Whitaker 2, Russia 2, Robert Morris 2, William F. Buckley 2, Sorenson 2, Mccarthy 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    David Frisk  Education.  (2013) 'If Not Us, Who? William  
   Rusher, 'National Review,' and the Conservative Movement.'  

    January 20, 2013
    2:00 - 3:00pm EST  

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going on in the south and what was going on in the national conservative political realm as well. rethinking strom thunder minute minute -- strom thurmond. we only remember him as the cartoonist race figure from the deep south. ... >> well, thank you, 'em john, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
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>> there were two bills at national review. and in the conservative movement, two bills. bill buckley, a brilliant shooting star who lit up the sky, and bill rusher, a never-wavering north star by which conservatives learn today chart their -- learned to chart their political course. many have written about william f. buckley jr., that irresistible renaissance man, but no one until david frisk has given us an in-depth portrait of the other bill, william a. rusher, who among his other salutary contributions played a pivotal role in the life of the national draft goldwater committee. and that was critical. because if there had been no draft goldwater committee, there would have been no presidential candidate barry goldwater in
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1964. and if there had been no candidate goldwater in 1964, there would have been no president-elect ronald reagan in 1980. it was goldwater, you see, who approved reagan's famous a time for choosing television address which made reagan a political star overnight and led to his running for governor of california and eventually president of these united states. david recounts how bill rusher shored up the goldwater committee when money ran short and spirits sagged. skillfully guided young americans for freedom if his early, chaotic days, enforced some order and discipline on the blythe spirits who ran national review, expanded a conservative movement through the tv program "the advocates," husband newspaper column and his -- his newspaper column and his
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lectures and championed ronald reagan when other conservatives were somewhat skeptical about the actor-turned--politician. bill rusher loved american politics, rare wines, traveling to distant lands and national review's effervescent editor, bill buckley. of whom he once said, quote: the most exasperating people in the world are so off the most beloved -- are so often the most beloved, and he is no exception. now, david frisk has captured all of this and more in this splendid, overdue biography of the other bill, bill rusher. dr. frisk is a former award-winning reporter who received his ph.d. from claremont and will be teaching this fall those lucky students at the aler ham hamilton -- aler hamilton center in new york. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving a warm
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heritage welcome to dr. david frisk. [applause] >> well, thank you for that wonderful introduction of me, and more importantly, william rusher. can everyone hear all right? i suspect a very wide range in this room of familiarity and relative unfamiliarity with bill rusher who was the publisher of "national review" for 31 years, almost from the beginning. and can also be said to have had a half-century-long career in american politics with something of a privileged, ringside or front row seat.
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he never ran for public office, never held public office, never really founded anything on his own as a number of conservative leaders did and became identified, never controlled his own institution. he was, as i put it in my introduction to if not us, who, william rusher, national review and the conservative movement which was published last april, he was at the edge of the limelight. a lot of people knew very well who he was, a lot of people knew a lot less about him. but as people became aware of william rusher, they, there was a general agreement among the whole fractious spectrum of american conservativism. we've seen how fractious it can be just after this unfortunate election. there was a wide agreement.
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libertarians, purists, pragmatists and bill rusher really knew what he was doing. one of his great achievements was to give movement conservatives from, i would say, the early 1960s right up until the 1990s by which time he had semi-retired more confidence than i think they otherwise would have had, that there really was a conservative movement and that it really was moving. if imperfectly. we've seen in recent years a lot of doubts about whether the conservative movement still exists anymore. some people even doubt whether it deserves to exist anymore, whether it's destroyed itself. where there have been people all
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along who have said things like that. one of the thing rusher stood for most prominently and enduringly was the belief that we conservatives all had to pull together and all had to be together and keep being together. you know, the most obvious cliche that comes to mind, and he would have put it more articulately and more memorably is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, not miss the forest for the trees. these are not the most innovating or exciting sort of messages, but it's very important to have a few people at or near the top of the conservative movement's leadership who believe in and preach these things and who ask people, ask their fellow activists and conservative intellectuals to remain focused
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on the need to win a majority of the american people and to govern. "national review," as a very intellectual magazine throughout its existence -- and i think probably even more so in its early years, the '50s and '60s -- very much needed, i think, bill buckley, managing editor priscilla buckley and every other major person there acknowledged that they very much needed a man just like bill rusher to serve as a political eyes and ears, as a political counselor, as a link between "national review"-type people. as rusher tended to put it to
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me, the intellectuals and the practical politicians. by politicians rusher didn't just mean people if or aspiring to public office, but people like his good friend f. clifton white, the master mind of the draft-goldwater campaign. white, too, was a politician, and rusher was something of a politician. in other words, a practitioner of actual politics. rusher placed tremendous value on these people. and he was always trying, you know, with some success to get the more philosophical conservatives. a classic example, of course, being buckley himself to appreciate ha sort of or career, that sort of individual and that sort of effort. a lot of what you'll find in the book, and i'm sure some of you have read it is a good deal of back and forth between publisher
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rusher, also in-house political counselor rusher who had the full privileges, by the way, of speaking out on any issue officially and unofficially. by officially, i mean in the meetings they held which could be very long and interesting. he had the full privilege of speaking out on any issue, editorial issue, anything involving "national review"'s political position, the tone, what it should cover, what is less important. so he played an editorial role although he didn't have an official one, and they listened to him. at times they got tired of listening to him. but remember anytime you, if you read about rusher or, you know, if you want to formulate a question about him, remember that this is another world technologically and remains so until rusher retired at the end of "national review" at the end of 1988. his successor said when he came
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in afterwards, it was still operating in the 1950s, that is in '88-'89, still operating in the 1950s with carbon paper and secretaries who were treated as secretaries. i guess that's a polite term for sexist, and it's not an important point. the more important be point is, you know, carbon paper. [laughter] rusher would not have been keen on social media himself were he still alive and active today, but he would have appreciated it. to get back to the point, it's an important one, this was an era when people communicated on paper. and they communicated at length on paper. that was a tremendous resource for my research at the library of congress where rusher's papers are. there's been sufficient evidence, excuse me, sufficient interest in the rusher papers among scholars who are interested in the development of the conservative movement who i think more often than not are
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liberals. in the rusher papers that they were moved from the satellite location out in suburban maryland to the actual james madison building on the other side of the hill. that's how much interest there has been in the rusher papers, although you haven't -- you know, might be is the only book about him, and as far as i know it will be the only book about him. is so these people communicated to each other in paper or or, and that's a lot of what my book is based on, plus interviews with dozens of people including extensive interviews with mr. rusher and significant interviews with mr. buckley. they were very candid with each other, rusher and buckley in particular. in their differing judgments about what positions "national review" should take, what it should focus on. dr. edwards allude today the importance of the goldwater campaign for the future of the conservative movement. i don't think there's time and perhaps isn't any need to stress
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that to this audience any further than it already has been. very seminal event. rusher was in the thick of it. more than anyone, he probably persuaded goldwater at least to remain open to the candidacy of 1963 when he didn't want to. he kept the draft-goldwater campaign going when the head of it, cliff white, his old friend and associate was ready to give up for a variety of reasons, including financial reasons. one of the great lessons of rusher's career is that he didn't believe in giving up ever. there was always another bus coming along in 10 or 15 minutes. the sun would come up the next morning. and there was always something to do.
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one of the people who knew rusher well as a young conservative activist in the '60s, rusher then being in his late 30s or about 40, said that it seemed to him in his interalaskas with him in young -- interactions with him in young americans for freedom and so on that rusher had an extra ten hours a day. someone else said that he seemed to be the most organized man in the movement. now, it was a little easier for rusher to play that kind of very energetic and very focused role, always on all the time, always giving it his best, always looking good, always speaking well, always dressing well and always, um, if not always right, always persuasive, always somebody you wanted to listen to.
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it's easier to develop that reputation perhaps if you don't have a family. he never married, never had children. somebody suggested to me very early in my research that rusher was really married to the movement. i think there's a good deal of truth to that. so there's only a limited number of people, you know, who have that kind of a life and can play quite that kind of a role. the point is that rusher did it. rusher had been, he was a graduate of harvard law school, graduated in 1948, worked at major wall street law firm, sherman andsterring and -- sterling and wright, an old and major firm, but he was really bored by corporate law practice. he describes it in his first book which was published in 1968, and it's not really an autobiography, but there's an autobiographical chapter that that's quite interesting. he says, well, there were all
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these silent victories and muted defeats and these quiet conversations and these, you know, sort of board rooms of our law firm, and he wanted more action than that. and also he loved politics so much, but he really had in some way, shape or form, he had to do it full-time. so he walks away from his law firm in early 1956, comes to washington, lives just a few blocks south of here, somewhere near the was el belling -- russell building or the dirksen build anything a little apartment. and he joins an important anti-communist investigator named robert morris. robert morris' importance in the anti-communist investigations of the 1950s was apparently so significant that whitaker chambers said to buckley in a letter around that time that morris really accomplished most of what joe mccarthy is
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credited with. in terms of useful and constructive anti-communism that is credited with on the right. rusher was at morris' side on the senate internal subcommittee, he was the number two lawyer on that committee. mccarthy was still alive. he knew mccarthy and believed that he had been very unfairly railroaded by the liberal establishment very much along the lines of what stan evans later argued in his 2007 book "blacklisted by history." rusher, in other words, was part of a -- before he came to "national review" he was part of a cadre of very hard and professional anti-communists. and that was what really got him into the conservative movement. that's what caused him to
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transition from generic republicanism which included a, what i've described as a just win, baby, attitude. and there's something to be said for that. to an attitude of being willing to lose even a presidential election if it was a constructive sort of loss that one could take pride in a la goldwater '64 that might plant, that had planted seeds for the future. rusher did not initially think that way. in 1948, 1952 it was just winker baby. so -- just win, baby. so he's all for dewey. there's similarities there. that 1948 campaign, there's similarities to the 2012 campaign. on our side and on the other side. rusher seized that. in '52 he knows that eisenhower
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isn't going to be a great champion of conservative causes, probably also knew that eisenhower would not be that aggressive an anti-communist. but he wanted to win. well, to keep this reasonably concise but to finish the thought because it is important, rusher believed that moderate republican administration under dwight eisenhower who was president for eight years just wasn't ideological enough, wasn't anti-communist enough either at home or abroad. rusher believed there was still a significant communist threat within the united states. more and more documentation of that, you know, has come out in the last 20 years after the opening of the ex-soviet archives. buckley also -- a couple of years younger than rusher. all of you know probably that he
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wrote "god and man at yale" which came out in 1951 after graduating from yale. he has two beefs with yale, and rusher shared them. he was a graduate of princeton prewar and during the war. buckley says yale is, um, insufficiently respectful of religion despite its, you know, religious heritage can the religious heritage of most of elite academia in america. also they don't present the free enterprise side of economics. they're too keynesian, they're quasi-socialist. okay, rusher agreed with all that. but i think the greater affinity with buckley can be seen in buckley and his brother-in-law brent bozell's 1954 book "mccarthy and his enemies" in which they say, yeah, mccarthy's opinion a little too rough, he's made some errors of judgment, but that cause is really, really important, and he's being treated unfairly.
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that's exactly where rusher, that's exactly where rusher is in 1954-'55, '56 in the years where he turns from generic young republican republicanism to hard movement conservativism. there was a bit of a conservative movement even before buckley founded "national review" in 955, but it was -- 1955, but it was sort of, it was a little disorganized. it was disorganized, it was -- the polite term might be entrepreneurial, individualistic. whitaker chambers had another way of describing it, he said it was like people popping out like rabbits, you never knew where they were coming from, where they were going. we might see a little of this today now and then. rusher's absolutely thrilled to hear that there is going to be a conservativing weekly
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magazine -- conservative, weekly magazine. at the time, it was weekly. so when he hears about "national review" being in the works in 1955, he becomes a charter subscriber or even before it actually comes out. he meets buckley within a couple of months after the magazine starts. he spends a year and a half in washington on the senate internal security subcommittee, but he remains in touch with buckley and that circle. he joins the magazine in mid 1957. he wasn't interested in the business side of the magazine which was his, you know, technical and real responsibility, you know, keeping it afloat, finding more subscriber, getting more advertising, all that kind of stuff. they needed someone like that, and he was pretty good at that. although there's evidence that after several years for at least a time he kind of neglected it because he was so into the political side. but he, as i said, he comes into "national review" with a kind of
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writ from editor buckley. that he will have full free speech rights, free rights of amountation and advocacy in the internal deliberations of the magazine, and that is a good part of the book, although i wouldn't say it's quite a majority of it. but it's a good part of the book, and it's very interesting. rusher advising buckley and the other senior editors, james burnham, frank meyer and so on how it should deal with the john birch society issue, the extremists at the time, how it should deal with troubles within young americans for freedom, a very important conservative organization. dr. edwards was, i believe, the first editor of "the new guard," their newspaper or one of the early editors of yaf's newspaper back in the '60s. he started very young and has known rusher for that long. rusher would advise the national
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review people and, of course, above all buckley who was the owner and, therefore, really the man there what was going on out there among conservatives, what the problems were. in conservative politics. what the opportunities, the challenges, what good things were happening, what ought to be supported. buckley, though, is very interested in maintaining a high -- developing and then maintaining a high reputation for national review, a reputation as a thoughtful magazine. at one point he writes to his colleagues there and says, no, no, no, it was an editorial in 1960. he says to readers -- but he would have said it equally to his colleagues -- our job is not to make practical politics, it's really to think and write and occasionally to mediate; that
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is, to offer a sort of a -- to play something of a broker's role among conflicting conservatives. whatever they're conflicted about. buckley sees the need for that. rusher's ideally suited to dividing, helping to guide "national review" in that role. there were two factions at "national review." i don't mean to overstate that -- i don't mean to overstate the conflict there. there was a tremendous amount of respect for, they all had for each other, but their fundamental agreement was on "national review"'s importance. they all agreed that it was very important and they had very important duties. but they disagreed about the right approach and the right tone and the right folks for the magazine -- focus for the magazine. the two factions, a perfectly
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good word if you can get the idea of, um, any idea of back stabbing or underhanded approaches out of your heads, that -- it wasn't really like that as far as i can tell. but there were real arguments, real arguments. some of which was, were committed to paper. between a sort of buckley buckley/priscilla buckley -- again, she was the managing editor and bill buckley's older sister, just passed away a year ago, unfortunately, the den mother of the early conservative movement -- in that "national review" was a sort of incubator for young conservatives, very generous to them. well, the two buckleys and james burnham, a very brilliant ex-trotzkyist who already had a substantial intellectual
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reputation before he joined buckley in the founding of "national review," the three of them really believed in the importance of "national review"'s intellectual reputation. they also believed, as burnham put it very early on, that this was a magazine that should be on the desks of policymakers, academics, senators, you know, really important people whether they were conservatives or not. they believed in something of an elite strategy. for -- it wasn't so much to make conservativism powerful as to make it acceptable and to get nonconservatives the -- the more important the better -- to listen to the conservative view point whether it be on foreign policy and anti-communism,
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economic conservativism or limited government, constitutionalism or what today is called social conservativism, more likely then it would be called traditional conservativism. the issues were a little different and less clear back then. but there's always been social conservativism. rusher had a very important ally, a man named frank meyer. meyer remains sufficiently respected and known among at least an older generation of conservatives that there is a frank meyer society here in washington which i'm going to be a little, a group of conservative leaders who keep his memory alive. they're going to be meeting on monday night, and i'm going to be speaking to them. meyer has been tribed by rusher as -- described by rusher as the intellectual engine of the conservative movement. he, too, was an ex-communist, as burnham was. but meyer was a conservative
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activist. a passionate conservative activist. rusher even told me that meyer had once been a militant communist. i, rusher, had been a militant republican. quote: they're not all that far apart except in what they believe. now, what rusher meant by that is that he had a tremendous attraction to and respect for, frankly, for political obsession. meyer was both intellectually obsessed, he had a house that was literally full of books. i mean, it's hard to imagine, hard to describe, but books or were absolutely everywhere. so extremely intellectual, but also extremely political. as david keene, the longtime -- no longer, but the longtime chairman of the american conservative movement put it to me, also a young conservative in the '60s, you'd go and visit
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meyer, you'd take a bus from the midwest in his case. you'd come back, and perhaps two weeks later you'd get busted out of bed by the phone ringing at maybe two in the morning. frank meyer would be saying, well, why haven't you do enthis? -- haven't you done this? why haven't you done the other thing? i think that particular style of leadership or mentoring probably wouldn't be too welcome among conservatives today, and can i'm sure there were people then who thought it was a bit much even if they tremendously admired meyer. the fact is there were people like that back then who thought the cause was so important that they could, at least meyer, could -- he'd have no qualms about calling up someone at two in the morning. he was nocturnal anyway. rusher loved this kind of thing. he didn't have that kind of irregular schedule himself. he was, again, as i've suggested, he was more organized than that. ..
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the consecutive movement was still gelling. in the 1970s, russia's focus is on -- is initially on the possibility of actually replacing the republican party with a new differ party.
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i found a letter in which he said to a friend, my problem with -- about 1975. my problem with the republican party isn't that it's not conservative enough. it's that it isn't big enough. again, he wanted to win, and and the republicans after watergate in the mid-'7s were in terrible shape. won't recite the details. they -- a lot of them fell like they were become in the 1930s. a small minority party. russia wants to take the opportunity to start a new conservative party. not rigidly conservative, but constantly conservative. one in which the liberal wing of the republican party would not be present and therefore would not have the kind of veto power he thought they had.
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he believed the key to this was, one, not necessarily the most important thing but an important thing, was to moderate economic conservativism a little bit and be a little more populist, recognize the needs, the position of the little guy. he always had in of that in him. les to welcome social conservativism, the populist issues and not only southerners, but what then were known as conservative democrats. people who later became reagan democrats. rusher was one of the first to note the size and importance of that voting bloc. he was one of the first, and i'm sure one of the most effective, advocates of bringing it into the republican party, and he advised reagan to do this, he knew both reagan and the first president bush pretty well. had known reagan since the
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mid-'60s, advised reagan and then vice president bush some years later to do this. he was -- successful in that, although i don't think reagan -- i'm not sure reagan needed to be told that but certainly it's fortifying and encouraging to hear imfrom somebody who he respected as much as he respected rusher. rusher also wanted reagan to be the head of this new conservative party. well, to make a long story short, reagan refuses, probably prudently. most political scientists will tell you if a third party is going to be big on a national level it cannot start small. it's got to start big. probably with a super star like reagan. so, once reagan refused in mid-'75, to join this third party project rusher got going and wrote a book about, it was
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probably curtains for that particular idea. but rusher had succeeded in getting conservatives to think more about the need to expand the republican party, and for the republican party to be more coherent. not so ideology include coherent it was willing to forfeit elections. i think rusher was past that phase of his political development and perspective by then. so, he recognized that if reagan wasn't going to head it, it was probably not going to get too far. but he stuck with it. the full details are in the book, chapter 13. but he came to see in the late '70s, it was possible for other guy like reagan to win the republican nomination, and once reagan did, ever since reagan
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won the republican nomination in 1980 and had in rusher0s view, totally successful presidency -- rusher remained to the end of his days an absolute republican party loyalist. rightly or wrongly. that's another interesting lesson. a man who at one time had been a third-party advocate, comes back to a more conventional political view in closing i want to say two words resident rusher's significance as a symbol month conservative -- among conservatives. he was a very elegant man. he was not particularly tall. he wasn't athletic. thinged that buckley woulds. but he was wonderfully are articulate. he always spoke in perfectly formed sentences, both in public and in private conversation. he was always very well-dressed. he loved fine wine and opera. he traveled all over the world,
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knew all the great hotels of the world. so this is a little unusual for a semi populist conservative and a guy as ideological as he was. perhaps leading conservatives today too you a few more people like that. in other words, it was hard for a manhattan lincoln recall -- liberal to say that rusher is a hick and this and that. you can't sigh that about buckley and you couldn't say it about rusher. so rusher reinforced that thought that they're smart, sophisticated people, fun to have around if you can stand their viewpoint now and. the rusher was another example of that kind of conservative. younger conservatives tended to admire that, and he tried to bring them along in that style and vein. also as dr. edwards referred to, rusher was a major, major conservative debater for quite a
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while. most prom lent through on a pbs show called "the advocates." he was the conservative advocate. it was debate show. he did extremely well and a lot of people would watch that and say, well, we can do that, too. we can be as good as he is. i have not really had time to go much into this mentoring role with young conservatives, but he loved to advise them. he liked hearing about what they were doing, if they were doing something. it was very important to do things. rusher didn't like people who just sat around and talk. or didn't really have a lot of patience for sitting around and talking. put it that way. so generations of now-senior conservatives will tell you that they knew rusher either personally or by reputation, that he gave them great advice, had time for them. rusher always remained very proud of that.
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he retired in san francisco. he loved the climate. he loved the relative sophistication of san francisco. he had fallen in love with this in '50s, and lived there for the last 20 years of his life, and i will leave you with this quote which also gives a sense of rusher0s attitude. in my last interview with him he said to me, san francisco has a dreadful reputation among conservatives, and new yorkers are always raising the subject with me. mostly new yorkers. he said i just dismiss it. i'm not the least bit interested in what the majority of people in san francisco think. i like the food. i like the weather. i like the am beens. at it where i want to live. and if they want to live there, too the liberals, good luck.
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>> i'll be eager for your questions. [applause] >> if you will, just raise your hand. we have a gentleman with the microphone, and if you will please give your name and then ask your question. hopefully not -- it's a question and not a statement. but all depends. please, first question. down here. thank you. >> you mentioned how rusher wanted to take a more populist tone and turn at some point. do you think that's a less -- >> can you speak up just a bit? >> rusher wanted to take a more populist tone. do you see that as a potential lesson to be applied today from his --...
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>> well, i'm not comfortable trying to say what rusher would say today, but it's clear that he always believed and never -- from the 1970s on, certainly, always believed and never lost his belief that populist and social conservativism and those voters were absolutely essential to conservatives' success, that their issues had not been dealt with -- had not real where been dealt with by the official republican party, had not been sufficiently respected. show wanted those votes, just as he wanted southern votes in the early '60s, and advocated that. but he also believed that social
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conservativism, and any populist issues, had to be expressed in a responsible and thoughtful way. a good example you can find in a footnote in one of the late chapters, is a column he wrote about abortion in '81. it was called something like "the problem and strength" of right to life. he sees a balance there basically he says i'm one of you, i agree with you on this issue. but we must realize how smug and even offensive, or something like that, we sometimes appear to others who don't share our viewpoint. so, we have to be moderate in our presentation of it. i am confident in saying that rusher would absolutely disagree with those who now say in the wake of romney's loss, that we we should jettison social
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conservativism. he would remind social conservatives that there are a lot of people who disagree with you, and you have to speak to them effectively. does that help? >> hi. i'm martin. as i understand it -- and i think i got this from the biography of frank meyer. there was an ideologyical dispute when national review got started with a priscilla buckley and james burnham saying the gold of the conservative movement would be to fight communism and not really caring about the welfare state, and people like frank meyer saying, no, we have to shrink -- fighting communism is a good thing but we need to shrink government first, and that rusher, among other things, acted as a mediator between
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those two factions. >> i didn't get the last half sentence. >> one of rusher's roles was to mediate between two factions. i got the sense that priscilla buckley and burnham were sort of distant ancestors of neoconservatives, and meyer, of course, being a -- would have disagreements, and i think it was primarily about what conservatives should do about the welfare state, and i'm wondering what rusher's role was in those ideological debates. >> very good question. i would amend something you said, which is, i don't believe there was much conflict within "national review" about what
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position to take on the welfare state. but there was some. it was not rusher's primary concern. his primary concern in terms of ideology, was that "national review" must be ideological. the exact positions it took would vary often be secondary, but that insofar as it had certain beliefs on issues, it should be really serious about holding other conservatives, and especially public office holders -- to account in showing leadership on them. and in supporting candidates who were most likely to really be solid on those issues. whereas burnham, he would in fact say -- did in fact say --
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the example i have in mine is medicare in '65 -- that it was inevitable. the nature of the healthcare situation, the elderly population, made it inevitable. there was rising mass pressure for it. congress had to doomed that. our roles, as conservatives, beenham said, is to make this new thing work as well as possible. it's good there was voice there saying that. buckley was more free market, though. he was actually more interested in economics than rusher was. so i don't think there was a big dispute about the welfare state to. to the extent there was burnham would be the advocate of accommodating it, but still he is conservative, an economic conservative. rusher was not as libertarian or small government as frank meyer, but in general the two of them lined up.
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i'm sorry? >> what about priscilla buckley? >> i simply don't know about that. what is perfectly clear is that she and burnham were very close in professional sense. their personalities were just meshed together really well. they were both very calm people. they both believed in a very high literary quality for the magazine. and in keeping things that just didn't measure up intellectually or might be too extreme, out of the magazine. rusher was a little more accommodating to the hard right in that respect. i'm unaware, though, that there was any real conflict between priscilla buckley, the manager edit for about the same period, 30 years or are so,light 50s
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to mid-80s -- that rusher was there. they overlapped substantially. everyone liked her. everybody respected her, so she wasn't really involved in personal conflicts there was a terrible personal conflict between burnham and meyer. ideological conflict as well. but neither of them ever quit, which is to their credit. i can do more. >> anymore questions? >> have i sufficiently conveyed -- i'll take the question -- i want to make sure i give a couple more sort of clever quotes and debate quotes from rusher to share with you his vibrant personality and just his cleverness. important part of the story. go ahead. >> yes, thank you. you must have had conversations with mr. rusher about reagan's
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second term, and earlier you said he considered the reagan presidency, an unmitigated success. were there any reservations about the second term developments, i.e., iran-contra and president reagan's alleged declining intellectual capabilities? >> i apologize. i was wearing ear plugs earlier today. would you mind restating the question for me. loud. >> the question was regarding -- if he had any reservations about reagan's second term in terms of his mental capacity declining or the iran-contra issue. >> okay. rusher on reagan's second term, including iran-contra. >> yes. >> rusher was one of reagan's
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most consistent defenders can among ideological and leading movement conservatives. during the reagan administration. as richard brook heister, who is still a major figure at "national revow" and was a writer then, and a good friend of rusher, said to me, when reagan was elected rusher decided to defend him on every single thing, and his reasoning was, in terms of presidents, this is the best guy we're going to get. it will never be better, and it will never be as good. so you have to back this guy up on everything. he had some concerns about reagan's first chief of staff, james baker, who had come from the other wing of the party, of course.
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he was -- he questioned whether someone like that could really put his heart into a reaganite program. a couple years after that, rusher was very upset about some -- i guess you'd call them technical p.r. mistakes on the part of communications people in the white house and says, so and so ought to be fired. didn't happen. his main concern in giving advice to reagan -- which he didn't do a lot of -- but his main concern seemed to be, let's make sure we're effectively communicating with the american people and getting around the liberal media, which is a great bug bearer of rushers. rightfully so. on iran-contra, he filed it with a kind of dutitiful interest. i don't think he had a great emotional investment in it. but he wrote sin dictated
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columns and he wrote columns taking the president's side and it came down to this. maybe reagan had been get of a few errors of judgment there but he said it seems to have come down to an overly is so his to us attitude of getting the hostages back but that's a crime of the heart. if ronald reagan has a weakness, i'm kind of glad it's that one. he also was damned if he was going to let or enable the democrats and the media, who he saw as the same thing -- to get a republican president. >> i'm going to take the risk of hazarding another what would rusher thing of what's going on today, but i want to ask more about your thoughts about what rusher might have to say about
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where "national review" is today. obviously it's still a highly regarded publication but it seems increasingly to be positioned -- i don't want to say in a more moderate place but in a slightly less combative place than others like andrew breitbart. i'd like to hear what you think rush are would say about that. >> to begin with, rusher liked almost any active, reasonably responsible, vigorous, fearless, conservativism. he, therefore, appreciated talk radio. appreciated the more controversial aspects of fox news. he watched fox news. he specifically admired rush limbaugh, even 20 years ago,
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before rush limbaugh was quite as much of a household name as he is now. i asked him about "national review," which for some time -- this is about 2005 or so -- for some time, of course, it had been more sort of repertorial and news oriented and current events oriented than it once was. and, yeah, there were people who didn't really like that. rusher said he was for that. although he also told me -- and i don't believe this is really a confidence -- that when buckley himself retired from the actual editorship of the magazine, which was about -- well, it was in stages, but anyway, he told them -- i don't know if it was personally to buckley or what
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but it was very important in his view that "national review" not be, quote, just another conservative magazine. it was very important for it to retain its identity and its brand. and so it's clear from that -- and he specifically mentioned its catholic tinge. the buckley family is virtually all catholic. william f. buckley, jr. was a strong catholic. rusher was not catholic but admired it and respected that as part of "national review." so he wanted that to continue. so he had no real beefs with "national review" although he did think there were some younger people there who probably should know more history and more of the right-wing side of history but he had kind of a relaxed attitude toward that. he dent have utopian expectations how much people would low or how ideological
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they would be in his older years, he was very much a team player, and i think that comes out clearly in the book. anyone else? >> an example of rusher wit. >> if you know the name of theodore sorenson, ted sorenson, one of the great word smiths for the kennedy presidency. he tried to get a race going in 1970. rusher in 1970 is really in his prime. he is about 47 years old at that point. he has been a staple on talk radio in new york for about the last ten years, and he really knows what he is doing, and he was to debate liberals on the
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air. there's a man who is still alive, and i believe still does a radio show in new york, internet radio now, barry farber, who was then a very prominent host, who greatly admired rusher. he had the two of them on. and sorenson basically accuses "national review" of race simple -- racism and extremism and associates that with nixon and george wallace and lumps it all together. not an intellectually impressive performance. and rusher just goes after him and keeps going after him, and finally says, based on your performance tonight, you may think you're qualified to run for senate from new york, but based on your hysterical performance tonight, you would want be e -- you wouldn't be elected dog catcher. sorenson says, well, it seems you're being rather hysterical
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now. and rusher says, yeah, but i'm not running for the senate. he knew when to give just a little but make the guy look even worse. earlier on the farber show, somebody -- south africa was an issue for many liberals. rusher had not yet been there. but somebody said they -- his will be recall opponent said, have you been to south africa? and he says, no, i haven't been to south africa, but you must have been there or you wouldn't make such heavy weather of it. what did you learn in south africa that you think is so important for us to know. so he turns a weakness into a strength. again, don't give an inch. turn it around. it's not the politics of personal destruction. but it's certainly a politics of personal one-up-man-ship. rusher believed in the battle of ideas but knew there was a role
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for wit and drama in politics, and a final rusher quote off the top of my head. buckley loved to ski. also at one point visited the soviet union and had a national review group that got together. most of them went, and i think it was the winter of '75 or '76. rusher refused. he said, no, because they don't have the right to grant permission. i'm not going to ask communist permission for anything, even to visit their country. ll wait until they're thrown out and then i'll go, which he did. he told me, once said to buckley i would no more go to the soviet union on vacation than i would if hitler had permitted it, had skied in the austrian alps during world war ii. and buckley took some exceptn